Tech

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport is a bargain hatchback that lacks performance

Key Points
  • The Elantra GT Sport is a smart, comfortable choice at an attractive price.
  • You'll be disappointed if you're expecting true hot-hatch performance.
  • It's refined over earlier models, however, and a good value.
The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The Hyundai Elantra GT Sport is a lovely little hatchback.

It's a smart choice that merits consideration if you're looking for a small hatchback with a bit more power. If you're looking for a true hot hatch -- a high-performance car -- it's not quite there.

I tested the GT Sport and here's what I think.

The Good

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

We're talking about a Hyundai, which means it isn't priced in the same tier as the true hot hatches like the Volkswagen GTI.

Our tester came with blind-spot monitoring, heated seats, dual-zone climate control and an infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all for $24,260.

There is a technology package available that adds a panoramic sunroof, cooled seats, a premium audio system and a slew of active safety equipment. That requires the dual-clutch transmission option over the more-fun manual gearbox, however. It also brings the cost to nearly $30,000, which is more than I think the driving experience is worth.

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The Elantra GT Sport has a lot going for it. The suspension is composed and delivers a comfortable ride that's more on the firm side. The 1.6-liter turbo engine delivers 201 horsepower without discernible lag or drama, while handling is competent.

The GT Sport feels like a refined and more powerful small hatchback. It doesn't light your hair on fire, but the driving experience still offers more engagement than a traditional compact car, especially with the six-speed manual.

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The cabin is a fantastic place to spend time. Red accents abound, brightening up the cabin and paying respect to the car's "Sport" moniker. Materials are on a par with the class, but Hyundai's infotainment system rises above most of it.

In addition to the better interior, the GT Sport -- as opposed to the regular Elantra Sport I reviewed last year -- offers a lot of room for cargo and friends.

The Bad

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

There's nothing glaringly wrong with the Elantra GT Sport, it's just not quite as good as I was hoping.

We've long been waiting for Hyundai or Kia to come out with a bargain performance hatchback, and I naïvely hoped that this was the one.

As I stated above, handling is competent and the power is adequate. It's not technically bad at cornering, but the wheel feels dead in your hands. The engine has the torque to move you off the line, but it never seems to encourage spirited driving. It'll do it, but it doesn't seem to want to.

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

This is a stark contrast to cars like the Focus ST, which basically always feel as though they're straining at the leash and want to explode onto a two-lane road.

Now, credit to Hyundai where it's due: it doesn't market this as a proper hot hatch to rival those cars. It never claimed that the GT Sport can compete, but that's almost worse. I wish it had the guts to chase the big guys, rather than creating a car held back because it was afraid of consumers and reviewers drawing the comparisons.

The Elantra GT Sport is fine, I just think it could have been great.

How you should configure it

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The GT Sport with a manual is only available in one configuration. Since we consider the stick shift to be a near-necessity to get some fun out of this car, that means our recommended configuration is $24,125.

Final Thoughts

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Later this year, Hyundai will launch the "N" performance sub-brand, with the Veloster N amped-up and ready to rumble with Germany and America's best.

That's probably the car that I was hoping the Elantra GT Sport would be, and I'm looking forward to more N-branded Hyundais in the future.

Rating:

Exterior: 3

Interior: 4

Driving Experience:

Value: 4.5

Overall: 3.5

Price as configured: $24,260

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